The Gamification of Mobility
How operators increase loyalty and engagement by gamifying their services
Nick Pelling, a British-born video game developer, self-proclaimed to have coined the term ‘gamification’ in 2002. It has since become ubiquitous in consumer tech products and in areas such as healthtech and edutech. It is, in essence, the application of typical elements of game playing, like point scoring, to other areas of activity with the aim of increasing engagement with a product or service.
Tapping into natural desires for competition and achievement, gamification can make even the most tedious tasks more exciting. In the early 2000s, however, it is unlikely that Pelling had the mobility market in mind. With mobility traditionally focused on reliability and safety, it isn’t an obvious target for gamification. Nevertheless, as it becomes more service based, engaging users through fun applications is becoming ever more important. We outline the different ways that gamification is being applied to make mobility software more engaging, easier to use and to develop good habits.
Uber’s driver app — increase loyalty and encourage good behavior
Uber’s driver app is a prime example of this. They include “quests” and “badges” to improve the experience of their drivers while some elements give it more of a video game feeling than a place of work. An earnings tracker sits at the top of the app so that the driver can always see how much they have earned so far and how many trips they have completed. Bonification is added to the mix with tasks, such as completing a certain amount of trips in a specified time frame and maintaining a high feedback rating, met with monetary reward. In addition, improved tipping systems and an overall enjoyable experience are all part of increasing driver loyalty and encouraging good behaviour. Whether or not this represents a fair deal for the drivers is another question entirely. Many care more about the money in their pockets than digital badges. In any case, the fact that Uber seeks to make the experience more engaging for its drivers is a good example of how gamification is being applied to increase loyalty.
The wild juicer hunt
Another example of gamification in today’s mobility is that of electric scooter charging. Companies like Bird and Lime have deployed gamification features which encourage users to hunt for scooters in order to take them home and charge them. To make this more interesting, users in some cases receive higher rewards for tracking down scooters which are more difficult to find. In the case of Bird, they have played on their four letter title with elements such as ‘“capturing” Birds while releasing them back into their “nest”. All of these features give these apps somewhat of a Pokémon Go feel, just without the augmented reality. For now. This makes the experience more engaging and in doing so helps to get more users onboard. And, more importantly, it also encourages the users to take greater care with the scooters as they develop a greater attachment to them.
The OEMs and developing positive habits
Forming good habits is a common aspect of gamification. In educational apps, like the language learning programme Duolingo, users are rewarded with points for successfully completing learning exercises and streaks of subsequent completed days. This helps users to remain motivated and to develop consistent learning habits. In a similar way, OEMs seek to use gamification to improve the driving behaviour of their users. This can be seen in fuel efficiency, adherence to laws and developing eco-friendly driving habits. Ford’s Efficiency Leaves system, for example, is integrated into the cars dashboard and provides feedback to drivers in the form of a growing plant. The more fuel efficient the driver is, the higher the plant will grow. The primary motivation for including this feature was to educate drivers on how to get the most out of their hybrid vehicles, something that at the time, wasn’t well known.
Duolingo is particularly successful due to its community aspect. Users can compete and communicate with each other while certain groups are only accessible after a successful streak of completed tasks. Moreover, when users reward one another with points for useful contributions to discussions, the service is improved by the users themselves. Mobility operators can go further in this regard by putting more emphasis on the community building aspect, just like Duolingo. Not only could users compete in terms of fuel efficient driving, they could also be rewarded for suggesting tips to other users, thus improving the service.
StreetCrowd — Fostering a community through gamification
Here at Parkbob we also see the value in developing a community. Our StreetCrowd service, which matches carsharing vehicles with crowdsource users for repositioning, is a fun way for. users to make money while supporting the success of carsharing operations. Here gamification elements could be applied to develop a user community, similar to Duolingo. This could include gamification elements such as rewards for moving a certain number of vehicles in a set time-fra me, while maintenance jobs requiring specific skill sets, such as changing a tyre, could be unlockable and rewarded with extra points. It is easy to imagine an app which allows crowdsource users to compete against one another and to discuss the StreetCrowd service. For this reason our team is already looking into ways of improving our user experience further.
Gamification is part of a wider movement into a service-based mobility ecosystem. Creating mobility applications that are attractive and easy to use is not enough. To increase engagement with the service and develop loyalty, they must be fun to use as well. Mobility services are at the same time responsible for promoting good habits among their users and for developing user communities that are invested in the success of the service. Gamification is a way to achieve this. By making mobility fun it can also make it more sustainable.
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Gerhard Liebmann is Head of Product at Ubiq. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.
Ubiq is shaping the future of urban mobility by enabling mobility services to become profitable. Experts in transforming raw urban data into actionable insights and valuable services, Ubiq enables better mobility decisions.